Sunday, September 7, 2014

Two Religious Right Figures Weigh in on ISIS

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) is a radical Sunni militant group that had seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring its territory to be an Islamic caliphate. The world has reacted with outrage as news of ISIS atrocities has come to light, including persecution of minorities, violence against civilians, forced conversions, and sexual violence. Unfortunately, some Religious Right figures have used the ISIS crisis as an opportunity to express disturbing views.

First, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty had made controversial comments about the ISIS' onslaught. During the September 2nd edition of Hannity, Sean Hannity interviewed Phil Robertson, and their conversation quickly focused on ISIS violence. (Why Hannity invited a reality TV star on his show to discuss global politics is beyond me.) Robertson separated humankind into two groups: the "children of God" and the servants of Satan.
"Worldwide, planetwide, Biblically speaking, two groups of people: the children of God, and the whole world is under the control of the evil one. That's first John 5:19. Ephesians 2 said look, the evil one works in those who are disobedient. Galatians 3 [says] they are prisoners of sin. 2 Timothy 2, the Bible says that they've been taken captive by Satan to do his will." 
Robertson quoted Proverbs 8:36, arguing that Middle Eastern strife is perpetrated by those who hate the Biblical God. The complex roots of such conflicts were ignored in favor of a narrative that depicted Middle Eastern people as blinding slaughtering each other.
"Listen to this on this ISIS thing, 'All who hate me love death'. So you scratch you head and you say, well why is it that when we're not even over there in the Middle East, why do they continue to slaughter each other when we're not even on the premises? They can't blame us. We left Iraq. You say, what happened in Egypt, in Syria, Libya? They just slaughter each other. You say, what? 'All who hate me love death.'"
Robertson insisted that ending ISIS' reign of terror would involve converting ISIS members to Christianity or killing them.
"In this case, you either have to convert them, which I think would be next to impossible. I'm not giving up on them, but I'm just saying either convert them or kill them. One or the other ... I'd much rather have a Bible study with all of them and show them the error of their ways and point them to Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of having your sins removed and being raised from the dead. I would rather preach the gospel of Jesus to them. However, if it's a gunfight and a gunfight alone, if that's what their looking for, me personally, I am prepared for either one."

Sean Hannity's website now features a poll in which readers can vote on whether ISIS militants should be converted or killed.

Robertson's comments reflect a simplistic worldview in which Christianity is equated with virtue, non-Christian religions are associated with chaos, and a convert-or-die policy is imagined as the ideal response to armed opponents. (Ironically, ISIS implements this policy with abandon.) The fact that not all Middle Eastern Muslims are bloodthirsty, and that the ISIS crisis will require sophisticated solutions, escapes Robertson.

Second, Gary Cass penned a troubling commentary piece on ISIS and Islam for Charisma News. In a September 5th piece entitled "Why I Am Absolutely Islamaphobic", Cass lumped all Muslims together with ISIS militants, depicting Muslims as violent and fanatical. Cass conflated the Islamic supreme being with Satan, ignoring passages in the Quran that identify Allah as the god of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
"ISIS is doing to American journalists what every true follower of Muhammad wants to do to you and yours—subjugate or murder you. They believe they have been given a mandate by Allah (Satan) to dominate the world."
Cass explored three possible courses of action for dealing with global Islam: conversion of Muslims to Christianity, deportation, and violence in "self-defense". He encouraged readers to arm themselves and prepare for the disintegration of civil society following a terror attack.
"The only thing that is biblical and that 1,400 years of history has shown to work is overwhelming Christian just war and overwhelming self defense. Christian Generals Charles Martel in 732 and Jon Sobieski in 1672 defeated Islamic Turks and their attempts to take the West. Who will God raise up to save us this time? Will God even intervene or turn us over to the Muslims for turning against Him?

Either way, we must be prepared for the increase of terror at home and abroad. This is not irrational, but the loving thing we must do for our children and neighbors. First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self defense, create small cells of family and friends that you can rely on if some thing catastrophic happens and civil society suddenly melts down."
Cass' rant lumps all Muslims together with extremists, depicting them as a savage horde bent on destruction at home and abroad. He ignores the fact that Muslims are an extremely diverse religious group, that most Muslims are NOT militants, and that Muslims have been among ISIS' victims. To boot, Cass ignores the many Muslims who have condemned ISIS' and ostracized the extremist group, because acknowledging those voices would undermine his narrative. His vision is chilling and dangerous, especially at a time when religious tensions are high.

Islamic extremism is very real, and we must take seriously the threat it poses. The ISIS problem will require a strong, concerted response from global leaders. Having said that, there is no reason to demonize all Muslims on account of one militant group. Bigotry will not make us safer, and it will not help us respond effectively to the ISIS crisis.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Slaktivist: Charisma News goes full-on Hutu radio

Washington Post: Here’s how ‘Duck Dynasty’s’ Phil Robertson would fight the Islamic State: ‘Convert them or kill them’

Think Progress: The Terrible Theology Phil Robertson Would Use To Combat ISIS

Crooks and Liars: Phil Robertson, Fox News' New Expert On Islam, Jihad And Strategy


  1. Robertson and the men of ISIS are cut from the same cloth -- bearded religious bigots who loathe anyone not exactly like themselves. They have far more in common with each other than with normal Americans or Iraqis. I've been saying for years that these Abrahamic religions are basically similar in essence. The differences between Dominionist Christianity and jihadist Islam are more a matter of labeling and imagery than of substance.

    1. Infidel -- The similarities in this case are chilling.

  2. Call me over simplistic but I think they're all insane.

    1. Agi Tater -- I'm thinking you're on to something.

  3. I saw a clip of Robertson on Hannity and had to look away because even the visual was so ridiculous.

    1. Donna -- Well, Robertson IS a pretty ridiculous man. Why did Hannity bring him on the show to discuss ISIS, instead of an expert on war or Middle Eastern politics?

  4. Eye roll. Having a reality star weigh in on world matters is asinine, especially Robertson. But then again, its Fox News.

    1. Heather -- Fox News is the distilled essence of asinine.

  5. Oh, I can tell you why Hannnity invited Robertson onto his show. Simply, FOX is not news.

    I would agree that all Muslims are not extremists. However, all Muslims are a problem (like Christians) in that they do want Sharia. Sad, but true. I did a post the other day and the majority of terrorist groups are in fact Islamic, so we need to look realistically at the numbers.

    1. Christian -- Fox is definitely more propaganda than news. I'm seeing that now more than ever.


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